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Innovatec - Hatching Better Procurement

Innovatec Hatchery Automation launched a process of professionalisation for its procurement process last year. The company partnered with itsme because of its technical expertise, logistics concepts and intensive contacts with manufacturers. “First we were dating, but now we’re thinking about moving in together.”

Innovatec in Asperen develops, draws and builds mechanisation and automation for chick hatcheries. The innovative company is the European market leader and operates in more than 55 countries worldwide. Innovatec’s systems handle and monitor eggs and transport trolleys with setter trays filled with eggs to and from incubators and hatcheries. Each egg stays in an incubator for 18 days. Using Innovatec’s heartbeat technology, a check is made on day 9 or 18, depending on the type of hatchery, to see if a heartbeat is present in the egg. The unfertilised eggs and/or eggs in which no life is present are separated out. The empty spaces in the trays are then refilled with eggs. The eggs are then left to hatch.

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Solving frequency controller device issues

As part of procurement professionalisation, André Besselink and Rik Pennings joined the company early this year, one as a Strategic Buyer and the other as the Control Technology Manager. Besselink: “A number of elements in the machine are strategically important and we need to have them in-house for that reason.” Pennings: “That’s why we want to have in-house knowledge of the hardware and software. We have set up departments for that. We also want to have strategic knowledge in-house of the processes, such as the measurement technology for the heartbeat of a chick in the egg. Previously, cabinet construction and software development were completely handled by suppliers; now, we are much more involved in that and do more ourselves.”

“We wanted to have in-house strategic knowledge of the machine and processes.”

Problems with a frequency converter triggered Innovatec, recalls Besselink. “Through our cabinet builder, we found out that it was not readily available from stock. The problem remained unsolved, so we started talking to the relevant manufacturer ourselves. The controller turned out to be end-of-life. They had a good new controller, but installing it would have many consequences for our controller, partly because of a different communication protocol.” At the same time, ties with itsme as the supplier of the electrical components had strengthened, resulting in 1+1=3. Besselink contacted Jasper van den Corput, Account Manager at itsme. “Jasper, is there a possibility to eliminate that old controller and solve it with a Mitsubishi controller? Let’s meet with Mitsubishi to discuss it.” Pennings explains: “Traditionally, we have had PLCs and other components from Mitsubishi in our control cabinets. They had a controller that could do the same trick.” Besselink: “We started testing this spring and we managed to make a complete switch.”

Future of logistics concepts

It was the confirmation that Innovatec needed to bring technical knowledge in-house, says Besselink. “Rik and his people need to be able to talk to the brands directly, because we need their knowledge to solve problems. It is nice that itsme is involved in this in a tripartite consultation. It went well with Mitsubishi and also worked with Phoenix. We see itsme putting a lot of effort into that. That is why we have strengthened ties with itsme and are going to expand our portfolio with them.”

Another important reason was the logistics concepts they offer, continues Besselink. “The entire supply chain for electrical components used to go through our cabinet building partners, but we have now started doing it ourselves. Our spend is going to be so big that we want to keep a close eye on it. If we build more and more standardised control cabinets in the future, can we have itsme assemble kits per cabinet? In that way, we can tell our partners: ‘You have to build this cabinet and under this item number you can order all the components from itsme.’ By selecting itsme, we have pre-empted this so that we can control the cost price ourselves.” Van den Corput: “Kitting is a service we offer customers. Everything that is specifically needed for the machine they are going to build, we will supply in one package.” Arjen Schutte, Application Engineer at itsme Industrial Automation, adds: “We often provide kits at our facility close to the customer, so the lines are short. We put all the components in a box and ship it.”

“To us, the support is just as important as the price.”

Besselink is also thinking internationally. “Likewise, we are stuck with the availability of components and want to get in touch with manufacturers through itsme. 99% of our machines are for export. Our end customers, the hatcheries, have a continuous process, so cannot afford downtime. We want to be able to supply replacement components immediately. For that, we need to have the service equipment in place and gather partners around us who can fulfil that.” Schutte: “Having worked with those brands for so long, I know which roads to take.” Pennings: “There are different kinds of wholesalers; we have no use for box pushers. Their price may be good, but for us the support, thinking about the solution, is just as important as the price.”

Wonderfully good

The discussion on the future of panel building - leaving it up to partners or keeping it entirely in-house - is currently ongoing at Innovatec. In any case, the ambitions for the relationship with itsme are far reaching, says Besselink. “My ultimate ambition is for them to look into our system to see what they need to deliver tomorrow.” Schutte: “With some customers, itsme Connected Business already does that, indicating what needs to be ordered when, or ordering and keeping stock for the customer themselves, for example with a 2BIN system for grab stock.” Besselink: “With us, this is going to take a few more years. We have been together for nine months now, our product portfolio and sales at itsme are growing. First we were dating, but now we’re thinking about moving in together. In the end, it’s people who do business, not companies. Rik has Arjen as a contact and sparring partner who has solutions to technical problems or knows where to find them. To me, it is important to have good contact with the inside and outside sales staff at itsme and that they pick up and solve problems quickly. The complete picture, technology and logistics, is just fantastically well taken care of by itsme. The click we have with them is excellent.”


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